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Comment & Response
January 8, 2014

Changing the Terminology of Cancer

Author Affiliations
  • 1White River Junction Veterans Affairs Medical Center, White River Junction, Vermont
JAMA. 2014;311(2):202-203. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.283382

To the Editor The etymology of cancer dates to Hippocrates. Dr Esserman and colleagues1 proposed restricting this term to subsets of cancer with increased malignant potential in an effort to reduce screening for indolent lesions. This represents a synecdochic perspective,2,3 and is roughly analogous to reclassifying tick species that uncommonly transmit Lyme disease. The suggestion that nosology drives disease screening behavior is not wholly without merit, but it is also not a sufficient basis for the proposed taxonomic changes. Moreover, there is no evidence that such changes would produce the desired behavioral results.